Reporting on poverty in Wales

Day in and day out we all see the headlines – rising homelessness, more people using foodbanks, and rising numbers of insecure employment contracts. But what do we really understand about the way in which the media reports on poverty? Oxfam Cymru worked with a group of organisations to jointly commission the ground-breaking report, Exploring the news media narrative on poverty in Wales.

The report explores the role of the media in accurately reporting on poverty. The research intensely monitored news media in Wales to capture and analyse its reporting on all issues relating to poverty over a specific period of time. This included television, radio and print news, in both English and Welsh.

Poverty is experienced by nearly one in four people in Wales, and we know that poverty is often hidden. The media is a significant driver of how we view and understand poverty and so understanding how the media reports these issues is crucial.

The research for the report included interviews with journalists in Wales as well as third sector professionals, highlighting the co-dependant relationship between the two. Journalists are often dependant on charities for access to contacts and information, and charities are reliant on journalists to tell their story. There is a tension within this relationship, however, as journalists are under pressure to find a “hook”, a fresh angle, to make their coverage newsworthy, and charities often want to see connections made in stories to the underlying structural issues of why poverty exists in the first place.

Poverty rates in Wales have remained largely unchanged for a decade, and highlighting fresh news angles on poverty is important for widening and deepening public understanding of the structural causes of poverty

One of the key findings of the report was that only a third of coverage featured poverty as the main story, with it appearing in the other two-thirds as an “incidental…or background subject in reports on politics or discussions on macro-economic policy”.

An encouraging finding was that “there was no significant evidence of blaming the vulnerable and those suffering hardship for their experiences of poverty, economic inequality or social disadvantage”.

There is so much to be gleaned from this valuable piece of research. You can access the report here and also read a blog here written by Dr Kerry Moore of Cardiff University, who led the team that designed and carried out the research for the report.